As an art teacher I’ve had the opportunity to help others learn how to paint and my favorite subject is landscapes. It occurred to me that the process of painting a landscape is also a good metaphor for a believer’s journey. Most artists who strive to become better in their craft usually seek a teacher or master artist to help them learn to paint well. They listen and study the teacher’s methods and then try to put them into practice. Likewise, as believers we not only come to the Lord as our Savior, but as our master and teacher and try to apply His instructions to our life. And much the same as art, the process of living-out God’s word, often includes mistakes and failed attempts. But, through perseverance, and practice, artists and believers alike will begin to see success as they “paint” their way through life.
Looking at a step-by-step process for doing a landscape painting, I found the instructions apply equally well to both artistic and spiritual goals. Although you will likely need more than I have laid out here, I have simplified this into only 6 steps.
#1. Consider where you place the horizon line. Before you lay it in, you need to decide what part of the painting you want to be the most important in the composition. Do you want the sky, or heavenly part, to be predominant, or do you want everything that is below the horizon to be the most important.? Whatever you want to be the most important should be the largest area. So be sure to set the line at the right place. Similarly, in the grand scheme of your life, do you see your time here on earth as the biggest portion of our days and thus the most important, or do you see eternal life as an extravagant and boundless expanse that should be considered more important?Therefore, do you aim your efforts towards earthly things or heavenly things? So let the master of your life draw that line from the start.
#2. Lay in your big shapes and general colors. What are the big spiritual goals you have and how might they shape your actions for the strokes of each day ahead?
#3. In planning your painting decide early what and where the focal point of it will be. Likewise, in your life, what one thing should stand out to others when they look at the picture of your life? Keep in mind that all the contrasting dark times of trouble next to the bright spots of His light draws the most attention. So let your light shine brightly during your trials and remember to keep your focus on Him.
#4. Stand back and look at what you have so far. Look to see if the overall design and composition is good. Make any changes you need to make before getting too committed to the wrong course. Whatever stage of life we are at, it’s always a good idea to step back and look at what we are doing. Examine from a godly perspective as to whether or not we are on the right course. Ask yourself, have I strayed off course in some way? Do I need to make any changes in my life before getting too invested in something that is wrong?
#5. Check your reference frequently throughout the painting process and look closely so you don’t miss important details or make the wrong assumptions about what is there. If you look at it often enough, you’ll probably see things you didn’t notice before. You may need to correct something that you painted wrong too. As a believer, you should continue to read God’s word. Look for new revelations, watch for His corrections and then make the adjustments in your life’s picture at each juncture where needed.
#6. Paint the details, especially in the important things and put in the accents of extra color or brightness where they best serve a purpose. Leave out some details where they aren’t necessary. The things closest in the picture usually need more detail and attention. Make sure you pay attention to the details of life that are most important. Too often we get so caught–up with other distractions in life that we ignore the best things including those who are closest to us. Let God’s Spirit guide and direct how you paint each day and let Him make the brushstrokes.
Now sign it! You’re done. Enjoy your accomplishment. Do you feel good about the work before your eyes? Make sure you aren’t comparing your work to another artist’s work when you evaluate its beauty. Remember there will always be another artist who is better in some way. Be glad you finished the work. Make sure you don’t compare yourself to others when evaluating your worth before God. Remember, God loves you. Thank God for working His purposes together in your life to create a beautiful painting of His love. Think of all the times He added things, took things away, pulled things together, allowed darkness to show you His light and brought color in your life. And when your life’s work is done, others will see God was the main focal point of your life and your master will say to you: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Mathew 25: 23